By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
OTTUMWA — Soon-to-be Catholics expressed to Bishop Thomas Zinkula their desire to fully enter the church during Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish on Feb. 25. It was the second of two ceremonies held in the Davenport Diocese for individuals preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil.
For some, it was a matter of finding a new worship home after losing their old one. Due to migration to urban areas, church closings are a common occurrence in small farming communities.
This was the case for Heather Anderson. After her Protestant church disbanded, “I didn’t feel like I had a place where I belonged.” A friend invited her to attend Mass at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville. “She said, ‘Why don’t you come with me, and see if you like it. If you do, we can go from there,’” Anderson recalled. It turned out to be a good fit. “The community has just always been very welcoming.” She likes the traditions and the fact that their origins can be traced to the very beginning of the church.
After attending Mass for about two years, she decided to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes. Her 17-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, decided to join as well and will join her in receiving the sacraments of initiation during St. Anthony’s Easter Vigil Mass.
St. Anthony Deacon Tom Hardie noted that Knoxville has a big RCIA class this year — eight as opposed to the usual two or three. “This year was definitely the work of the Holy Spirit and we have many people coming from different situations to find the church.”
Among them is Abby Glann, who studied religion in college and has been searching for a church home for the better part of 20 years. “I would get frustrated because I’d know the history (of Christianity) … what a pastor would say would not be in line with that, and I’d stop going.” She thought the Catholic Church could be the answer, and a Catholic friend stepped forward to accompany her to Mass and explain what was going on. It felt right, and Glann decided to enroll in RCIA at the Knoxville parish. Her four children will join her in receiving the sacraments of initiation.
Parishes in Brooklyn and Victor also have a larger-than-usual number of people going through RCIA, with three each. Father Corey Close, pastor of the parishes, said this is mainly due to family connections, but he’s excited nonetheless. In Brooklyn, a mother and her two teenage daughters are preparing to go through the sacraments of initiation. In Victor, a husband and wife are entering the church together and their daughter is preparing to be baptized.
Among those in Victor preparing to enter the church is Colton Molyneux, who plans to marry his Catholic fiancé, Kate, this summer. He grew up attending a Baptist church but stopped going around fifth grade. The couple thought it would be good to be on the same page spiritually, so Colton entered the RCIA program. “The most rewarding part is that it has helped my fiancé and I better our relationship,” he said.
Five individuals from Albia will enter the church this year. Two of them have a strong connection to parishioner Sabrina Wells, who entered the church about five years ago. ‘She’s been quite active since she joined the church,” said Sharon Crall, the parish’s RCIA coordinator. This year Sabrina’s boyfriend and sister are joining the church; her boyfriend has been familiar with the church for years but finally felt the time was right to join, and her sister came to RCIA looking for a new start after her small Methodist church closed.
Fr. Close believes that parishes will see larger RCIA classes in the future. Faith is becoming less important in American culture, and as a result, fewer parents are baptizing their children, he said. Others may be baptized but not engaged in a faith community. When these individuals come looking for a faith community to call their own, Catholics can be there to reach out and invite them into the fullness of the faith. That’s the invitation accepted by those who participated in this year’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.